In Focus: Code of measuring practice

Measurement is synonymous with surveying.

However, when measuring buildings there are often discrepancies with regard to how a particular building should be measured.

For example, should open balconies be included? How about vertical penetrations such as stairways and what about areas with limited headroom such as basements.

These issues have become particularly apparent in the issue of the measurement of buildings with regard to the assessment of reinstatement values following Hurricane Ivan and the problem of under insurance.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan most property owners have had to deal with loss adjusters who have arrived on island from overseas and who have been assessing the reinstatement values of the insured buildings by applying a schedule of building rates per square foot, provided for them by the local surveyors with whom they are associated, to the areas of the insured buildings. However, in practice there appears to be a number of discrepancies between the areas of the buildings as measured by the loss adjusters and the owners own opinion of the area.

In order to ensure that all buildings are measured for a particular purpose on a common basis, The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has developed a Code of Measuring Practice. The purpose of which is to provide succinct, precise definitions to permit the accurate measurement of buildings and land, the calculation of the sizes (areas and volumes) and the description or specification of land and buildings on a common and consistent basis.

The code is not mandatory but is a code of quality practice.

The Code is distinct from that relating to the Standard Method of Measurement of Building Works, which is commonly used in the construction industry and published jointly by The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Building Employers’ Confederation in the United Kingdom.

Gross external area

The RICS Code of Measuring Practice has three core definitions, these being;

GEA (Gross External Area)

GIA (Gross Internal Area)

NIA (Net Internal Area)

In deciding upon the appropriate method of measurement two main questions should be considered. Why are you measuring? What are you measuring?

When measuring residential buildings for the estimation of building cost, when assessing the reinstatement cost for insurance purposes, the appropriate method of measurement according to the Code is Gross External Area.

GEA is the area of a building measured externally at each floor level. It includes perimeter wall thicknesses and external projections, areas occupied by internal walls and partitions, columns, stairwells, elevator shafts and the like. It will also include mezzanine areas intended for use with permanent access, lift and plant rooms, garages, conservatories and outbuildings which share at least one wall with the main building. It will not include external open-sided balconies, covered walkways, canopies, open vehicle parking areas and roof terraces.

Other definitions

With regard to the other core definitions, Gross Internal Area is the area of a building measured to the internal face of the perimeter walls at each floor area and is used for reasons including the calculation of service charges for the apportionment of the occupiers’ liability.

The third core definition, Net Internal Area is the usable area within a building measured to the internal face of the perimeter walls at each floor level. This area importantly excludes entrance halls, common access corridors, restrooms, stairwells and other vertical penetrations, plant and mechanical rooms.

This method of measurement is primarily used for real estate and appraisal purposes in the marketing and valuation of commercial properties and particularly for the assessment of rental rates.

It should be noted that the measurements used to arrive at Strata entitlements for condominiums in the Cayman Islands may not conform to any of the above definitions.

While these measurements are similar in basis to GEA, since the main purpose of measurements for Strata units is to define the area of the building over which the Strata unit owner has exclusive possession, these measurements sometimes include open balconies and even open patio areas.

The areas provided in Strata plans cannot therefore always be relied upon in their entirety for the assessment of building costs for a condominium development.

To summarise, it is essential when discussing or negotiating building costs, rental rates, service charges and values based on floor areas, that all parties concerned are relying on measurements based on the same method of measurement and the appropriate definition for the type of building and appropriate purpose for which the building is being measured.

Simon Watson is General Manager of Deloitte Property Consulting Services. He is a Fellow of The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and member of the RICS Caribbean Steering Committee, with 20 years experience in property surveying, half of that experience gained in the Cayman Islands. Deloitte Property Consulting Services provide a comprehensive range of services including project and construction management, contract and financial monitoring of projects, valuations and appraisals, quantity surveying, property management and insurance claims adjusting services.

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